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Flag pole high above Old U.S. 80 Bridge to be replaced

For almost 30 years, a large American flag has flown from the top of the Old U.S. 80 Bridge and the flagpole from which it flew has stood tall over the Mississippi River.

For many of those years, that flag has been sponsored by the Army-Navy Club to honor a local veteran.

But time and the elements have taken their toll and the bridge’s flagpole is showing its age. At the end of March, it will be replaced by a new standard.

“We can’t fly a flag at half-staff and it’s old, very old, and it’s needing some things we can’t do with it in its present condition so it’s easier to replace it,” Bridge Superintendent Herman Smith said.

He said the flagpole’s exact age is unknown. The first flag flew from it in 1994, but a search of county and Warren County Bridge Commission records failed to determine when it was installed. “We know it has been here at least since 1994,” he said.

Smith said planning for the project began in February 2019.

He said the pole will be replaced either March 30 or 31. The exact date, he said, will be determined Wednesday.

On the day it is replaced, the Mississippi State Welcome Center on Washington Street will be closed and used as a staging and parking area for the project. The people involved in the replacement will meet at the welcome center at 7:15 a.m. and sometime between 8 and 9 a.m. a helicopter for 5-State Helicopter of Fate, Texas, will leave the Vicksburg Municipal Airport to remove the pole from its base.

A four-man team consisting of two bridge commission employees, a rigger for 5-State and a safety worker will be on the bridge to help remove the pole. The helicopter will be attached to the pole and when the pole has some pressure on it, the workers will disconnect it and it will be taken to the airport.

After the helicopter reaches the airport, the flagpole will be laid down and the base plate for the new pole containing a 5-foot shaft will be attached to the helicopter and flown to the bridge.

Once the base plate is bolted down and secured, Smith said, the helicopter pilot will be notified, deliver the new flagpole and move it over the shaft.

“The flagpole is not anchored down,” he said. “It fits over the shaft and it floats at that position. That way, the flagpole can rotate if it needs to and have some movement to be able to bear weight.”

The movement will also allow the flagpole to adjust to weather conditions, Smith said, adding it is supposed to handle sustained 110 mph winds for several hours with the flag still attached to it.

Smith said rail traffic will be closed from 8 a.m. to noon and river traffic from 7 a.m. to noon for the project.

Traffic along the Interstate 20 Mississippi River bridge will not be affected. 

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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